Ask the coach. Push ups

Ask the coach. Push ups

It was this photo on Instagram that piqued my interest.

As quite possibly the world’s worst pusher-up (you know what I mean!) I was intrigued.

From time to time I make a resolution to work on my push ups, do them assiduously for about 2 days, and then give up in frustration at my poor form.

Vijay, my brilliant trainer with Decodesnc, with whom I am now doing Zoom sessions (since the gym is obviously closed these days), has introduced push ups into my training, and I am determined to crack ’em this time.

I brain-stormed with Jeevan Aujla, the founder of Decode, and we have decided that we will tackle various basic exercises here in the blog.

Since so many of us are now forcibly limited to exercising at home, hints and tips and input from a professional coach can only be super useful, right?

This will be a weekly feature and we are counting on you, the reader, to let us know what exercises and issues you would like to see covered here.

So, here we go.

Our first ever Q&A with Coach Jeevan on PUSH UPS.


Q. Coach, in your opinion, how important are push ups in everyday fitness?

A. Pushing strength is vital for every day health and fitness. Push ups are often neglected and rushed. It is a natural movement for us and aids everyone. From our childhood PT sessions or elite millitary service, this incredible exercise can serve us all.

Q. Which muscles does a push up work?

A. Though this exercise is predominantly working on your upper extremities and is recommended for shoulder strength, arms and chest, I personally feel push up as a movement skill works the whole body and specially your core.

Important considerations are to understand your individual mobility and stability, to ensure that you have the right motor neuron sync, otherwise wrong push ups can overload the shoulder and elbow. 

Q. How do you start to do push ups?

A. As a coach I like to the take the inside to outside approach – meaning assess your shoulder range of motion, spinal extension (ability to keep a neutral spine) and basic core strength (abdominal & obliques strength) – this allows you to identify which variation or regression to use for anyone. This exercise can be done under slow controlled negative movements (excentric) and gradually build up to assess local endurance for push ups.

In our programme we keep this as a staple movement pattern for all age groups, genders and profiles. 

Q. “I have weak arms…” How will I be able to do push ups?

A. Firstly you must realise push ups are not just about the arms.

It is also about your core, glute, shoulder, pectoral muscles – any natural movement can be regressed to a zero degree movement e.g. if you imagine being trapped, you will automatically end up pushing against any door or obstruction.

Similarly, when we work with clients, we use push ups against a wall as a series starter – doing only free fall movement first, and then gradually building up by pushing against wall. Squeezing your shoulder blades (scapula function) and controlling faulty shoulder rotation (internal rotation) should also be vital cues to start and monitor your push ups.  

Q. How many reps should I start with?

A. Always choose form over force – this works better in the long term, I feel. Number of push ups is dictated by your training programme considerations like goal, sport or individual training capability (joints stability, mobility etc)

Do reps where scapula function, shoulder movement, core and neutral spine are best maintained. In our programme we use push ups as an auxiliary strength exercise with a recommendation of achieving 3 sets of 8-10 in good form.

Q. I’ve seen pictures of people doing push ups with their knees on the ground.  What’s this about?

A. The modified kneeling position for push ups can be viewed as a progression from standing push up against wall, and is also considered as a regression to full knee extended position.

Disengaging the knees allows us to help us focus more on reducing shoulder load, which directly helps squeeze your shoulder blades and avoid the elbows flaring out and away from your midline. It is a great modification and can be used against ground or bosu (balance trainer) for improving shoulder stabilisation and enhancing core engagement. 

Always remember that your pulling ratio should be greater than your pushing ratio, and folks must train their posterior chain of muscles to avoid anterior dominance from the world we currently live in – had we been hanging from trees more often (shoulder flexion end range of motion)  😊 push ups would already become easy and apt for all.

Well, this has certainly taught me a lot, and I will definitely put Coach Jeevan’s advice into practice.

As I said at the outset of this blog, please do email me with queries and/or suggestions for topics you would like covering here, and I will get you expert help!

Right here.

About Coach Jeevan

With 14+ years of strength and conditioning training, and a Masters in Sports Science from the UK, Jeevan Singh Aujla is an Indian SnC coach, giving live sessions (online & on ground).

Check out his amazing work at

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